Is Heat or Ice Better for a Migraine?

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Cold on the head can help ease migraines.
Cold on the head can help ease migraines. (Image: Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Jacob Bøtter)

Using heat or ice for migraine relief is a matter of personal preference. The Mayo Clinic states that some people find relief through cold compresses or hot compresses on the head or back of the neck, or by taking a hot bath.

Temporary Relief

Cold compresses, heating pads, warm compresses or hot baths may help ease migraine pain, but they do not take the pain entirely. Medication is needed for that.

Time Frame

Cold or warm compresses should be placed on the skin for only ten or fifteen minutes at a time. A warm foot bath or full bath be used as a treatment for as long as needed.

Speculation

According to the Mayo Clinic, a cold compress on the head or neck may help numb the pain. Heat from a pad or a bath may help the patient's muscles to relax. Tense muscles may add to migraine pain.

Trial and Error

"Migraines For Dummies" (Diane Stafford and Jennifer Shoquist, MD; 2003) points out that all people experience migraines differently, so individuals may have different reactions to heat or cold on their bodies. The only way to find out how you react is to test different remedies.

Warning

"Migraines For Dummies" also mentions that some types of migraines are so severe that patients undergoing attacks need immediate hospitalization. These types include hemiplegic migraines and basilar artery migraines.

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